Minnesota Golf Association

Onkka Medals; Johnson, Larson and Moores Also Headed to U.S. Mid-Amateur

August 6, 2019

By Nick Hunter
 DELLWOOD, Minn. – A pair of late birdies helped Blake Onkka to a one-stroke victory at Dellwood Country Club Tuesday, shooting 2-under 70 to earn medalist honors and an invitation to the 2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur next month.
Claiming one of four qualifying spots from a field of 78 players Tuesday, Onkka will make his first appearance at a USGA championship when the tournament begins Sept. 14 at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo.
“This year I’ve been more relaxed—I’m getting older and have kids, so you care about other things a little bit more. You just play and it’s been pretty good this year and the last few weeks,” Onkka said after qualifying Tuesday. “I’m excited—everyone’s told me over the years that I need to get into one to see what it’s like. The [Minnesota Golf Association] does an awesome job with their events, but this is a totally different level. This is really cool.”
Onkka, 38, has recorded nine top-10 finishes at state championships over the past nine seasons, most notably finishing runner-up to Sammy Schmitz at the MGA Mid-Amateur Championship at Dellwood in 2011. That same season, Onkka won the Northwest Invitational at Mesaba Country Club in Hibbing.
“I’ve played in a million qualifiers and have been reasonably close, but never that close. I’m not really sure what to do now—schedule a flight and all these other things,” he said. “[2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Sammy Schmitz] was telling me that this one is the best to play in because it starts on the weekend at least.”
Beginning his round on the 10th tee Tuesday, Onkka carded a three-putt bogey at the 11th before sticking his approach inside of six feet at the par-5 13th to draw even, where he would finish his front nine following five consecutive pars.
“I didn’t even think about [my score] after nine, I just kept playing,” Onkka said. “The way the greens were, at the start of the day, I thought even or [1-under] is usually okay for these, but then I felt [two or 3-under] was probably going to be leading. The greens were a little slower than they usually are and I knew there were a couple of easier par-5s you can make those birdies.”
Onkka’s approach at the par-4 first stopped inside of six feet, where he rolled in his birdie putt to move to 1-under, but gave back a stroke at the third with his second three-putt of the round. Knocking a 5-iron to four feet at the sixth, Onkka converted his short birdie chance and two-putted for birdie at the par-5 eighth to finish on top of the leaderboard at 2-under 70.
“It was a great day—you’ve got to keep in the middle of the fairway out here and I didn’t hit a bad tee shot. If you do that, you have a chance. It was a no-nonsense round. I usually try too hard sometimes, and today I just told myself to hit it and not think about it and it kind of worked, I guess.”
Rolling in two birdies against one bogey Tuesday, Troy Johnson makes a trip back to the U.S. Mid-Amateur for the sixth time and first since 2017, claiming the second qualifying spot by finishing in a three-way tie for second at 1-under 71.
“It was a good day for me—very consistent. One of my most consistent rounds of golf. Really an even, stress-free round,” Johnson said Tuesday. “I had numerous chances, but they weren’t great chances. I felt like I was a lot more in control today. I didn’t hit that many bad shots today.”
As one of the state’s stronger players for the past several seasons, Johnson owns eight state championship victories and the national championship next month will be the 11th USGA appearance for the 48-year-old.
“I feel like at this point I’m ready to compete to get into match play and do some damage,” he said. “I’ve been playing good all year and I’m hoping to go in and play as consistent as I have been and have a good tournament.”
Jesse Larson chipped in for birdie and carded one bogey during his opening nine Tuesday before rolling in one birdie over his final nine holes to shoot 1-under 71 to claim the third qualifying spot and a trip to his second U.S. Mid-Amateur, previously qualifying in 2010.
“I played really solid and had a good game plan—put in in the fairway, put it on the green, take some two-putts and try to make birdies when you get chances,” Larson said. “Two birdies and a bogey, to me that’s solid out here because it’s not easy off the tee. I’m hitting longer clubs into the greens and a lot of 3-woods off tees, so I’m extremely pleased.  
“It’s been nine years since my last one. This one means a lot because I’m [44-years-old] and I went through a stretch from 2013 to 2016 where my game sucked. I had some good results and made some changes to try to get better and I went the wrong way. It took me four years to figure it out and now the last few years, it’s been a nice, steady climb back.”
Aside from qualifying for two U.S. Mid-Amateurs, Larson played in the 2012 U.S. State Team Championship before winning the MGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship with partner Jordan Hawkinson the following year. He’s claimed back-to-back top-10 finishes at the MGA State Amateur Championships the past two seasons.
Helped by an eagle and a birdie during his opening nine Tuesday, Brian Moores secured a spot in his first USGA championship after carding a 1-under 71 despite an up-and-down back nine on his home course at Dellwood.
Turning in 2-under, Moores carded back-to-back bogeys to begin his inward to drop to even par for the round before limiting the damage with a birdie at the 12th. With a pair of bogeys along with a pair of birdies over his remaining six holes, Moores claimed the final qualifying spot with a round of 71.
Dylan Francis, of Minneapolis, Minn., and Bowen Osborn, originally from Wayzata, Minn., finished as first and second alternates, respectively.
A Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design that opened in 2009, Colorado Golf Club previously hosted the 2010 Senior PGA Championship, which was won by Tom Lehman, and the 2013 Solheim Cup, won by the Europeans, 18-10.


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